For the past year, a group of passionate, like-minded people have come together in an effort to create a significant difference when it comes to climate change.
Every Friday, members of Climate Action Muskoka host strikes throughout the region, spreading the word on how important it is to take action against climate change immediately. In Huntsville they meet in front of Town Hall between 11:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m., taking appropriate safety measures with COVID-19 in mind.
These strikes are inspired by Fridays for Future, a global climate strike movement that started after Greta Thunberg began a school strike for climate change in 2018. Today, Sept. 25, is a global strike day of action for the movement.
In preparation for this, members of the group presented a delegation on Sept. 24 to the District of Muskoka’s community and planning committee to declare a climate state of emergency in Muskoka. If passed, the resolution would go to the District council meeting on Oct. 19.
“The point is to ask the District to commit to the target of the Paris Agreement, which is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 50 per cent from the 2010 levels by 2030. That’s 10 years time,” said Lesley Hastie, a member of Climate Action Muskoka. “We feel that governments have to take action. As individuals we just don’t have the power; we don’t have the means to do what it takes to meet those targets. We have to have governments agree to them and act on them, not just tokenism. The District would examine every purchase, every policy through the lens of climate change.”
This would include looking at purchasing electric vehicles when fleets need to be replaced, reducing the carbon footprint and changing the provincial building code to have net zero carbon housing.
“This sort of anticipation and accommodation is what we’re looking for from the District,” said Hastie. “We also want them to support and participate in a community working group to provide input to a climate action plan that we want them to develop, and collaborate with other governments and institutions to press governments at higher levels, provincial and federal, to get the funding we need to make these things happen.”
While the group recognizes it will take more than individual action to make a change, they are encouraging residents to measure their own carbon footprint, through a challenge they’ll be launching in a week or so called the Community Carbon Challenge.
“We would like each individual or household to measure their own carbon footprint and reduce it by 50 per cent from the 2010 levels by 2030. We would give them lots of incentives and ideas,” said Hastie. “Some of them are very simple things people can do, it’s just a question of thinking about them. Should I go put a sweater on and turn down the heat by a degree? Maybe I should turn off all the lights when I leave the room. We can start with small things like that. Everybody can be doing something and that’s what we would like to encourage. Over time those actions can be more dramatic.”
Hastie said as people need to replace vehicles they could look more into what kind of vehicle they would purchase, such as an electric or hybrid vehicle, or repair appliances instead of purchasing new ones.
“We can consume less and live a more simple life where we don’t use so many of the earth’s resources,” she said. “We don’t have to transport from overseas, we can buy locally. Support our local manufacturers, businesses and farmers.
“We feel we are making progress and we feel there is hope. Action is a great way to deal with depressing news. There is so much going on in the world that is reducing carbon emissions. Edmonton has declared a state of emergency for the city and they have committed to this 50 per cent reduction by 2030. We have over 400 municipalities in Canada doing the same. It’s an idea that is coming and will come more and more. It will be nice when the whole of Canada takes on the commitment and we all commit to reducing our carbon emissions. The benefits are huge, everybody is aware of this with COVID. Fewer cars on the road, less traffic, less pollution, more people cycling, more people walking.”
Hastie noted the executive director of the International Energy Agency, Fatih Birol, said in June 2020 there was only six months left to avert a climate crisis.
“We really have no choice, we all have to act to mitigate climate change. It’s not just about our own well-being, our own families, it’s about humanity,” she said. “I don’t want to depress people, but the unthinkable thing for me is the warming of four degrees of the planet is probably uninhabitable. That’s what drives me. Human beings are so resourceful. With the right will and determination we can make a huge difference in the outcome. All the environmental organizations believe if we act we can make a difference. We just can’t sit and do nothing.”
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